Consider higher principles in Hidden Gems debate
September 28, 2009
I am writing as a supporter of the Hidden Gems wilderness proposal.
It has been disappointing to read the negative letters regarding this issue in the paper recently. I have noticed that many of the letters seem to be from people who may have been mistakenly misinformed. While the writers are passionate, a trait I admire, some of what they have said is incorrect. I urge those speaking out, whether it is for or against, to become fully educated on the issue before making impulsive decisions on the matter.
Regrettably a number of the negative claims have come from mountain bikers. I am not an avid mountain biker, but most of the mountain bikers I know have a deep respect and appreciation for nature and wilderness. What a shock and disappointment to find some of them speaking against something I believe many of them feel is dear to their hearts and necessary to their lives. I think if most of the bikers sat down and looked at the proposal maps, the majority would be pleased with the areas selected for preservation, as well as the areas left out of the proposal to allow for continued use of treasured bike trails.
Many think that because our backcountry is wild, it must be Wilderness. I was one of those people. In and around our valley we see the signs that designate National Forest. I mistakenly believed that these areas we revere were Wilderness and were preserved now and for years to come. Unfortunately only about a third of the White River National Forest – mostly at the higher elevations – is federally designated Wilderness. The rest has no permanent protection against getting drilled, logged, mined or motorized.
The Hidden Gems proposal would extend Wilderness protection to many areas at the biologically richer mid-elevations. While the higher elevations provide outstanding views and experiences for us, it is the mid-elevation areas presented in this proposal that are essential for wildlife to survive and thrive, as this is where they migrate, live, feed and breed.
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The Hidden Gems proposal is seeking to protect wild areas using the only viable option available to truly preserve these special untouched places – The Wilderness Act. The Wilderness Act was passed in 1964 to protect and preserve Wilderness in its natural condition now as well as for future generations.
Fortunately for all of us, it was a band of local citizens who came together years ago to do something similar to what Hidden Gems is trying to do now. It started with three mothers who loved the outdoors sitting around their kitchen tables, making maps of the beloved places they knew needed to be saved from future development and encroachment. It ended years later with these ladies meeting their goals of securing congressional designation for the Hunter-Fryingpan and Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Areas, as well as doubling the acreage designated within the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area. Thank you to them for their devotion, hard work, and passion. All of us who live and visit here benefit from the choice they made to pursue preservation.
We’ve heard a lot from backcountry users lately about what Wilderness designation would mean for their activities and their lifestyles. I absolutely believe people have a right to argue for their self-interests, but I’d like to suggest that we also consider some higher principles in this debate.
I think I speak for many in this valley who value the fact that these areas exist, wild and undisturbed. It is my hope that we can come together for the common good of respecting and appreciating these special places. The Hidden Gems proposal will ensure that these undisturbed natural areas will endure not just for ourselves but for our children and future generations. Hidden Gems is a legacy I am proud to support.